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Places in Missouri emerging as coronavirus hot spots

Jim Salter
Associated Press

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus is rising sharply in some areas near St. Louis, and hospitalizations in the region are starting to increase too.

Data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force shows that the seven-day average for new coronavirus-related hospital admissions in the region is now 29, the highest level since mid-May.

Suburban counties including Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln have seen steady increases in confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. But St. Charles County is emerging as a new hot spot, said Dr. Alex Garza of the pandemic task force.

St. Charles County is Missouri's third-largest county with 402,000 residents and has reported 690 new confirmed cases over the past 14 days, compared to 153 cases in the previous 14-day period. On Monday, the county cited the deaths of three elderly residents from long-term care facilities, bringing the number of deaths in the county to 80 since the pandemic began.

Cases have also risen recently in the Kansas City area, and some businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries that had reopened are closing again to in-person customers.

Among them is Margarita's, a popular Mexican restaurant that posted on Facebook over the weekend that it is reverting to curbside and takeout only.

"The safety of our customers and staff is our main priority," the posting stated.

Concerns are so high at the General Motors plant in Wentzville that about 1,200 third shift workers were laid off Monday, in part because many employees are not reporting to work out of fear of becoming infected, GM spokesman Dave Barnas said. A United Auto Workers official said there have been at least 23 confirmed cases at the plant. The sprawling plant is one of the county's largest employers.

St. Charles County followed the lead of Gov. Mike Parson in reopening its economy in mid-June, though County Executive Steve Ehlmann, like his fellow Republican Parson, has often urged people to wear facial coverings, maintain social distancing and take other precautionary steps.

Garza said it's clear that many people are ignoring that advice.

"Again, I think we got lulled into a false sense of security by thinking the virus has either gone away or (is) not as dangerous as we thought it had been, so now it's seeing a resurgence because of all of those things, unfortunately," Garza said.

County spokeswoman Mary Enger said Ehlmann and the county health department are monitoring the situation and, if trends continue, "everything is on the table."

In downtown St. Charles, the popular shops along the red-bricked Main Street are mostly busy despite the pandemic. Many require facial coverings, including the "Missouri Artists on Main" store.

Jack Schwab, a 60-year-old silver jewelry artist, and 63-year-old painter Debbie Wilger said most people who come in abide by the mask policy, but a few have stormed out in anger.

"Being rock-headed Americans, we don't like to be told what to do," Schwab said.

Statewide, 27,890 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state health department. That included 447 new cases reported Monday along with 14 new deaths, bringing the state's death toll to at least 1,083 people.

Springfield has joined the growing list of Missouri jurisdictions requiring facial coverings in most public settings. The City Council approved an emergency ordinance Monday night. St. Louis city and county, Kansas City and Jackson County and several other cities and counties also have mandated masks or other facial coverings in the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 in Eastern Jackson County

As of Tuesday morning, there have been 1,806 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Eastern Jackson County, up more than 400 from eight days ago, according to the Jackson County Health Department.

The case total includes 46 deaths, up from 40 last week, 161 hospitalizations (65 requiring intensive care), or just less than nine percent of cases, and 580 presumed recoveries.

From more than 32,600 people tested, 5.52 percent have come back positive, but the rolling 14-day percentage has risen in recent weeks to nearly 8% as of Tuesday.

The Health Department, which covers the county outside of Kansas City, is monitoring 10 outbreaks as nursing home and similar facilities, which have accounted for 287 cases and 22 deaths. In the two largest outbreaks, at Manor Care Center in Independence (74 cases), Lee’s Summit Pointe and Rehabilitation (59 cases), no additional cases have been reported in the last week.

At The Groves in Independence, officials reported last week that of 57 positive cases among residents and staff, 36 have recovered. From residents that had been in the COVID-19 patient unit, 70 percent have been discharged to regular care.

The Health Department considers an outbreak concluded after two incubation periods (28 days) since the first date of the last confirmed case.

The highest zip code case totals in The Examiner coverage area, according to the Health Department:

• 64055 (southern Independence); 212 cases, or 624 per 100,000 residents

• 64050 (northern Independence and Sugar Creek); 151 cases, or 677 per 100,000 residents

• 64052 (southwest Independence); 135 cases, or 671 per 100,000 residents

• 64081 (southern and western Lee’s Summit); 128 cases, or 528 per 100,000 residents

• 64015 (western Blue Springs); 113 cases, or 360 per 100,000 residents

• 64014 (Blue Springs); 101 cases, or 406 per 100,000 residents

The Manor and Groves outbreaks account for part of the high totals in 64055 and 64050, and Pointe and Rehab accounts for part of the 64081 total.

The Kansas City Health Department has reported, as of Monday, 2,533 cases, including 38 deaths and 148 required hospitalizations. Metrowide, as of Monday, there were 12,689 cases and 305 deaths, according to a database maintained by the Mid-America Regional Council.